Y and I have been lucky enough to spend the last week in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The excuse to go to BA was to attend the wedding of friends - the added bonus was a relaxing holiday at the same time!
We had so many great foodie experiences, so I’m going to try and cover them all as best I can below:
Posada Palermo This is the gorgeous B&B we stayed in in Palermo. The thing I liked best about this place is the atmosphere, so welcoming – in fact we liked hanging out here so much we found it hard to leave and actually do some sightseeing! We really enjoyed sitting around the large communal breakfast table (above) heaving with homemade yoghurt and bread, jams, dulce de leche, fresh fruit, pastries and coffee, chatting with our fellow travellers late into the morning, or curling up on the snug couches, and best of all relaxing with a book in the secluded and tranquil back garden.
We were lucky enough to meet some keen foodies here from Canada, with whom we shared many recipes and restaurant tips, as well as the odd bottle of wine and cheese.
Home delivered empanadas!
We had been invited to the bride’s hen night which was on the first night we arrived in Buenos Aires. We walked down unfamiliar streets to an apartment block in Palermo where we were very warmly greeted by the most gorgeous gorgeous Argentine girls.
Of course, what happens at the hen party stays at the hen party, and even if I could tell, the photos would have this blog automatically reclassified as something more akin to porn. In any event, we had a fabulously fun night (Y realised that the Spanish classes she’d taken all through school and university had clearly missed such topics as “Argentine Slang 101” and “Introduction to Argentine Sex Talk”, but no matter, some actions are fairly clear no matter what language you speak).
There is actually a reason I’m mentioning this hen's night on a food blog and that is because it was the night we discovered home delivered empanadas. A man arrived with a pile of pizza boxes (the more eager among us thought it was the stripper coming early, so to speak) filled with delicious empanadas – chicken ones, ham & cheese, and my favourite, minced beef. (Apparently you can also have beer & dulce de leche ice cream delivered with your empanadas)
For dessert, aside from the penis shaped cake, we were treated to a traditional cake made by one of our lovely hostesses – essentially a cake made of layering chocolate biscuits with the delicious thick caramelly dulce de leche. Very rich, but very yummy.
Casa Salt Shaker
I first found out about this underground/closed door restaurant through Twitter (thanks Kavey!). I was excited to be able to experience dinner, not only in someone else’s home, but in another country. After an exchange of several emails with Dan (who is a chef and who has run a restaurant in his home for 16 years, firstly in New York and for the past 5 years in Buenos Aires with partner Henry) it seemed best to have a private dinner for a group of 10 of our friends. Dan planned a brilliant menu for us (most of his cooking has a Mediterranean influence) with paired wines.
This was a really great experience. The supper clubs I’ve experienced in London have been amateur cooks who want to challenge themselves and cook for people they’ve invited into their homes (which is great and a unique experience). Salt Shaker on the other hand, is like dining in the private room of an excellent restaurant – the food is that good! Despite the professional standard of the cooking, the personal aspect, which makes underground restaurants so unique, of being in someone’s home and hosted by the people living there, was not lost.
The menu (click here to check out the menu - albeit in Spanish): Homemade tortillas, tomato with baharat spice, plus a smoky aubergine relish. I could smell the smoky aubergine before I even tasted this! Beautiful, fresh flavours - yum!
A chickpea soup with a dollop of chickpeas pureed with spices, scattered with crispy chickpeas. Truly-ruly delicious!
A lovely piece of steamed cod, in a pretty green creamy salsa verde-like puree, with a drizzle of oil. Simple but very gorgeous. A visually vibrant dish! I enjoyed the roast duck with red pepper sauce (I think that’s right, I was in the bathroom when the dish was described), but my favourite was the open ravioli of confit of duck.
Oh my goodness – I can fit a lot in my stomach (my best friend Lyndi, with whom I have demolished [and am now banned from] buffets in Mexico and Egypt can attest to this) but even I was seriously struggling by this time.
Dessert was a base of biscuity chocolate, the next layer was a chocolate and olive oil mousse, topped with chocolate and chilli cake. I really enjoyed the different textures, and the gorgeous chocolate flavours. Y, bless her, has such guilt attached to leaving food on her plate, that she requested a doggie bag.
The dinner was £25 per person and included generous glasses of excellent, and local matched wines with each course.
If you’re in BA, I highly recommend you check out Salt Shaker – you can either attend a dinner with others (usually an even mix of locals and tourists) if there’s only 1, 2 or 3 of you, or alternatively, do what we did and have a private dinner for 6-12 people.
Dan’s Salt Shaker website is also an excellent resource if looking for other supper clubs all over the world. I will definitely be looking them up when travelling in future.
Enfunda la Mandolina
This funky restaurant in Palermo probably didn’t know what hit it when a group of 25 (mainly Australian & jetlagged) people descended upon it on a Monday night. This was the venue for a welcome dinner with the bride and groom. The bride is Argentine and the groom Aussie. This was one of their favourite restaurants in BA to take visitors – I can see why.
I just loved the decor – retro coloured telephones attached to the walls, alongside shelves of vintage toys. I found myself pondering whether our land lady would really mind so much if I nailed a collection of 20 old and battered match box cars to the wall ...
We were welcomed with the most delicious aperitif, served in tiny jam jars – a concoction of white wine, black pepper, cinnamon and sugar syrup, which I’m just going to have to experiment with at home. We shared a couple of entrees which were creatively presented on tiles and wooden boards – empanadas were split open and lemon juice poured inside (before it drizzled out the bottom and down our arms), whilst we devoured some different relishes in mini jars, cubes of a variety of cheeses, some blood sausage, chicken and other unidentifiable but yummy morsels.
Fortunately we ate all these before ordering our main courses, and most people quickly retracted their first decision, in favour of sharing a main with another. Y and I shared a great steak, with some excellent chips and very little else – we probably should have ordered some sides, but frankly, we’d have struggled to fit them in. We were given another tiny jam jar with a farewell drink just before we left.
The Quilmes beer flowed all night and the bill came to approximately £10 per person (yes, you read that correctly).
I really loved this place, more for the space and the presentation of the food, than anything incredible about the food itself. It was a really good place for a big group though, and also inspiring if you love your retro and quirky items!
Dulce de leche
Other than steak, this was the taste sensation everyone told us we had to indulge in when in Buenos Aires. Dulce de leche is basically a very thick caramel sauce, made very slowly by cooking sweetened milk over a period of 3-4 hours. It was not difficult to try as a little pot of it adorned ourt breakfast table every morning. We added it to bananas, yoghurt, bread, cake, our fingers - anything. There are many ice cream places selling dulce de leche ice cream (also dulce de leche & cookies ice cream, dulce de leche & chocolate ice cream etc.), and we enjoyed ours sitting outside in the sun in Palermo Soho.
Dos Hermanos Although most days were spent sleeping until 10.30am (this is what happens when you eat dinner at 9pm – you end up going to bed at 3am), one day we were up bright and early to be picked up and driven 1.5 hours out of Buenos Aires to an estancia/ranch, Dos Hermanos.
The day was ostensibly for horse riding, but on reflection was perhaps more about eating!
We arrived to coffee (don’t think we had a bad coffee the entire time we were in Argentina) and Argentine croissants, before mounting our horses and heading off on a 2 hour ride around the estancia, led by the gorgeous Rosa and gaucho Don Juan.
After exerting ourselves (or our horses really) under the beating sun we returned for a quick snack of salami and cheese and gorgeous hot beef empanadas, before sitting down to an asado (small bbq which sits on the table). We had several different salads to accompany sausages, and gorgeous beef – some on the rib bone and the other called “lomo” which comes from the top, rear of the cow. Possibly the best steaks I have ever eaten. So simple, but so so delicious. With full bellies we then moved outside to devour bread pudding (a surprisingly light cake with a gelatinous consistency) with a dollop of dulce de leche, before relaxing in the hammocks in the shade before an afternoon of more riding.
Before leaving the ranch we had an afternoon snack (this horse riding thing is hard work!) of freshly baked little cakes and more coffee. Y & I returned (exhausted & sun kissed) to our B&B at about 9pm where all the guests were enjoying a wine tasting put on by Alejandro (a loveable character working at the B&B) of Malbecs and Torrontes. We were meant to have participated but arrived too late, however from the 12 happy faces that greeted us, it looked to have been a success!
As I’ve mentioned, we would usually awaken at 10.30am and then enjoy a long leisurely brunch at our B&B, Posada Palermo. We were therefore not often ready to eat until dinner and would get through the day on some gorgeous juicy peaches (there are fresh fruit vendors all over the place) and some nuts or toasted broad beans. As a result, we left several recommended brunch & lunch spots unvisited. I’ve listed them below as my best friend Mel, can attest to their being excellent (a view backed up by the opinions of others during our stay):
Olsen (best for Sunday brunch - a group of our friends were going the day after we left)
I walked past all of these several times and they were always full with a great vibe.
Of course, the entire reason we were in Buenos Aires was to attend the wedding of our friends. The wedding started at 10pm and the dancing, eating and more dancing continued til 6am. We finally arrived back at our hotel at about 8am.
The overwhelming memory of the wedding was that it was really one great celebratory party.
In terms of food, it went a little something like this ... trays of canapés brought around (empanadas and other yumminess wrapped in pastry) plus a CANAPE BUFFET!!! One table of little nibbles that I couldn’t get close enough to describe due to the throngs of people, and another table with a carved ham. We were off to a good start!
After some dancing, we sat down to several salads, but more importantly, several rounds of meat, served individually straight from the asado – chicken, chorizo sausage, blood sausage, beef. Hmmm. We shared a communal cocktail which was an idea of the groom’s – we all had extra long straws to slurp from pottery bowls he had made. Dessert was a little glass of smashed meringue, chocolate biscuit and dulce de leche, but then, there was a DESSERT BUFFET with a table of DIY fruit, melted chocolate, dulce de leche, scoops of ice cream and then another table of incredible cakes. We continued to dance, entertained by some carnivale-like performers, before enjoying a little pizza as the sun came up at 6am ... a truly memorable night (& morning).
On our final day, before heading to the airport, we had time for lunch in Palermo Soho. This restaurant had been highly recommended by our Canadian friends who we met at our B&B. Having talked non-stop food with them every breakfast time, we knew we could trust their opinion!
We hungrily devoured (this was the day after the wedding, and we’d had about 2 hours of sleep - dancing all night, combined with lack of sleep and a teensy hangover, can make you rather peckish) beef ribs and lomo/tenderloin (the same cuts we’d loved at the estancia), with sides of chips, salad, and some roasted vege.
A lovely outdoor courtyard complemented a perfect meal and ended a fabulous week in Buenos Aires.
You have not seen the last of us Argentina!